Workers of the Osun State University, Osogbo have described their ongoing court trial over a peaceful protest they staged in the university in 2018 as “a joint victimisation and planned injustice” orchestrated by the university management.
The management of the university, led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Labo Popoola, had since November, 2018, interdicted twenty-five workers of the institution including principal officers of the school’s Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) for staging a peaceful protest over their unpaid entitlements and alleged financial impropriety of the VC.
Addressing journalists after resumed hearing at the Osun State Magistrate’s Court sitting in Osogbo on Friday, the Chairman of the Joint Action Committee of the three unions and chairman of SSANU, Comrade Lekan Adiat described proceedings so far on the case as a joint victimisation and planned injustice against Union leaders and workers of the university.
The unionists were said to have been invited on November 29, 2018 by the Police after a peaceful protest at the university gate. The police in Osun state arraigned them before an Osogbo Magistrate court the next day, November 30, 2018 and accused them of public disturbance.
It was gathered that after the police had spent several months prosecuting the case, it was transferred to the State Ministry of Justice for fresh prosecution.
When the matter came up on Friday for continuation of hearing, the prosecution team led by the Chief State Counsel, Mr Moses Faremi called the university VC, Labo Popoola as one of the witnesses in the case.
Popoola informed the court that the workers shut the school gate and blocked access roads to the school on November 22, 2018 when the school was having its convocation ceremony.
He said the university hired private security agents (bouncers) to prevent the protesting workers from gaining entry into the university and to ensure that the gate was opened.
Explaining what led to the peaceful protest staged by the workers, Popoola said the university had issued “no-work no pay” policy on the workers who joined the strike called by the unions over nonpayment of allowances and allegedly financial impropriety by the management.
Reacting to the proceedings presided over by Magistrate Opeyemi Badmus, Comrade Adiat said “we see the proceedings as a case of planned injustice and joint victimisation. The VC lied against us, his staff.”
Adiat said the university would soon collapse if alleged lawlessness, corruption and illegalities that are being perpetrated in it are not checked by the visitor and other concerned authorities. He insisted that arraignment of workers of the university was illegal and against the rules of the school.
He then appealed to the visitor of the institution, Osun State Governor, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, International Labour Organisation and Civil Society Organisations to intervene in the crisis rocking the university over a year ago.
Adiat asked Governor Oyetola to wage into the labour tussle as promised alleging that the affected workers had been facing unlawful prosecution and victimisation by the management.
Adiat said that the peaceful protests, dated 2018, that led to the interdiction of the workers, followed due process adding that the workers had sought for dialogue to address the welfare of workers as regards unpaid entitlements among other issues affecting the university, but the management and council of the institution ignored them.
The JAC chairman who accused Prof Popoola of witch haunting and victimising workers, claimed that the management engaged services of Police in the state to victimise them through unlawful prosecution.
He said, “we want to inform the entire world that the Union leaders and workers of the Osun State University that were interdicted by the Prof Labo Popoola led management are still outside of their jobs for protesting against injustice and corrupt practices of the VC.
“We appeal to Governor Gboyega Oyetola to intervene in the matter as he promised the last time we met with him. We also call on International Labour Organisation (ILO) and well meaning Nigerians to wage into the crisis and ensure peaceful resolution. We are always ready for dialogue. We call on Inspector General of Police to call the Osun State Police to order to stop victimising and harassing workers of the university. Osun state university is dying under Labo Popoola.
“We don’t have any personal grudge against the management. It is our right to fight corruption in our university. UNIOSUN will soon collapse if illegalities going on are not checked. We didn’t vandalise any property during the peaceful protest. Charging 25 of us to court is illegal. It is against the rules of the university,” Adiat maintained.
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